On Oct. 16, CPS announced that most students will begin the second quarter of the year at home. In a letter sent to families, CPS said it intends to send pre-K and special education students back into school buildings.
The decision to send the mentioned groups will not be made final until November, Mayor Lightfoot said at a press conference on Oct. 22.
“Should schools reopen, students and staff will notice a variety of new safety measures including health screeners, temperature checks, strict adherence to social distancing, and a requirement to wear face coverings at all times,” said CPS in the reopening letter.
CPS’s goal to have pre-K and special education, or cluster students, first to go back into school buildings is due to these groups’ unique difficulties with remote learning. However, this proposed plan raises concerns given rising COVID-19 cases.
In an email sent to families, CPS expressed that online learning is not working for all students, especially special education students and students enrolled in cluster programs.
According to the Chicago COVID-19 Dashboard, since the beginning of October on a seven-day rolling average, cases rose from 454 to 682.
The CTU demands that the city and mayor come up with a clear plan for how to bring students and staff safely back into each building because some of the special education students, due to their disabilities, are immune-suppressed, as well as teachers who work with the students.
Mayor Lightfoot said during the Oct. 22 press conference that Chicago COVID-19 cases are going up.
“So, folks, we’ve got to do what we know works. Social distancing and wearing a mask, washing your hands,” Lightfoot said during the press conference.
CPS, in the reopening letter, also said that they will prioritize students’ health.
“We must explore every possible opportunity to safely bring students back to school,” CPS said in the letter sent to parents and students.
Madison Bryant, Div. 158, President of Lane Buddies, says she believes that it is essential that special education students return to the building.
Lane Buddies is a club at Lane that focuses on building relationships between the students in the cluster program and the rest of the student population.
“I do think it is really important that the special ed kids get back in the building because a lot of the parents rely on that care from the teachers and paraprofessionals during the school day,” Bryant said.
Bryant is also the science teacher assistant in the cluster program. Every morning, she sees the students with special needs struggle with getting on their Google Meet and participating in class due to a lot of students needing assistance getting online. Some families are not fortunate enough to have someone be with the students during their classes, according to Bryant.
“Even then, wearing a mask all day can be very difficult and some of the students have physical disabilities where it would not be safe for them to use a mask or it wouldn’t be safe for them to be around other people,” Bryant said.
Like most students, Bryant does miss being in the building and with the Buddies.
“It’s sad because you don’t get to see all the students, because of technology and schedules and all that, but you do get to see aspects of their personality in the Google Meets,” Bryant said.